It was on the night of 26/11 when Praveen Teotia, a marine commando, took four bullets in his lungs and ear while resisting the insurgents of Taj Hotel in Mumbai. It was the most terrific terrorist attack in India. For almost 6 months he was in the hospital, fighting for life against death. His lungs ruptured, he had multiple operations and even the doctors planted prosthetic ear to bring back his face symmetry. Praveen could not move his right hand and also could not walk. But he never lost hope….the hope to survive.
Praveen Teotia’s strong will power brought him back to the mainstream. He survived and he has made his existence something to be talked about. With lungs that are smaller in size than those present in normal human being, Praveen recently finished the 72 km-long Khardung La Marathon, one of the toughest marathon in India, well within the stipulated time.
PRAVEEN TEOTIA AS A NAVAL PERSONNEL
Praveen Teotia joined the Indian Navy in 2002, though initially he thought of joining the Army following his elder brother. But as he did not meet the criteria of height required for Army personnel, he went for the Navy. By his sheer merit, he cleared the exams of Navy and ultimately placed himself in the Hydrographic Survey section in the naval branch of Indian Armed Force. It was a smooth job for Praveen, with not much of physical activity involved. But the man from Bhatona village in Bulandshahr wanted excitement in his life and so went for Marine Commando (MARCOS) training. In 2006, Praveen was appointed a MARCOS in the Special Force Unit of Indian Navy.
Thus, Teotia gifted himself a life that he always wanted to lead. He was ready to undertake any type of operation in all type of terrains. On 26/11 he was among the eight MARCOS who arrived at the scene. A gunfight broke out between the four terrorists and the commandos. Praveen was injured and fell on the ground but not before evacuating a room that had around 150 people trapped inside.
POST HOSPITALISATION OF PRAVEEN TEOTIA
After his 6 months of hospitalization, Praveen Teotia returned home. But several medications made him extremely weak but at the same time he began to gain weight. He joined his office in Vishakhapatnam to continue his service in Navy but was reassigned to the rank of petty officer. His administrative desk job made him more bulged. It is during this time, he was inspired by a doctor in Vishakhapatnam to take up running to reduce his weight. At first Praveen was quite skeptical about his running capability, but he gained momentum once he started practicing it regularly.
Praveen used to set a target everyday. For the first few days he ran 500 m and then gradually increased his distance. Within 1 month he started running 5 km a day and also reduced his weight from 78 kg to 67 kg. He began to feel fit and therefore applied for Navy Mountaineering Expedition. But he was rejected on medical ground. Instead of becoming disheartened, he became more determined. In 2014, Teotia forced his transfer to Mumbai and from then onwards another exciting chapter of his life started.
PRAVEEN TEOTIA AS A MARATHONER
Praveen came to know about Mumbai Marathon from a colleague who advised him to take part in it. But he knew that Indian Navy would not permit him to take part in a marathon. So he ran under an alias in 2015 Mumbai Marathon. He was successful in his first attempt as he finished the race in 1 hour and 53 minutes. Next year he followed the same path for taking part in the event. But this time he ran the full marathon. Though he cramped in the middle, still he finished the race in 4 hours 37 minutes. It is by this time he met noted marathon runner Pervin Batliwala who encouraged him to start training for long-distance runs.
Under Batliwala, Praveen started to train himself. In 2016, he came out from his alias and took part in the Indian Navy Half Marathon. But as the Navy was still not convinced about his fitness, he did not clash with the authority and took a voluntary retirement. Since then it is marathon for Praveen everyday.
Praveen, having an amazing endurance level, took part in Goa Triathlon in February 2017 where he covered 1.5 km of swimming, 40 km of cycling and 10 km of running. He again proved his mettle when he finished at the podium in Ironman Triathlon (Olympic) held in Jaipur. He won a bronze in the event. This win made him high in confidence. So, Praveen finally decided to do another encounter but this time against nature’s dangerous landform Khardung La.
On 28th August, Praveen Teotia reached Ladakh. The Khardung La Challenge runs at an altitude of 18,380 feet. On 9th September Praveen and his fellow runner reached the top of the Pass. It was a moment to remember. He wanted to stay at the top and savor his success for some moments. But as the oxygen level is very low there, they had to move away very quickly. Finally Praveen Teotia finished the race in 12 hours 43 minutes, before the stipulated time of 14 hours.
Teotia has proved to the world that he can do anything with a damaged lungs and serious hearing disability. He now plans to participate in a full Iron Man Triathlon and is looking for sponsors to fund it. A hero in the true sense, Praveen Teotia, has conquered fear. His self-belief and fighting spirit places him in a different league. To end with his words-
Pain is there, it will always be there. But overcoming it is the greatest challenge. We should listen to our heart and that success reduces all the pain…both mentally and physically.